Love can be a quiet word

Love is a funny thing. People hear that I have never been in a long-term relationship and they often question if I am afraid of commitment. They look at the long list of addresses from my adult life, the chaotic employment history and they draw the conclusion that commitment and I don’t have a place together. But I have found many places to put my label of love.


Commitment doesn’t always lie in a dozen red roses, in diamond rings, and in shared mortgages. Commitment can bed itself in friendships forged over two decades of companionship, in long-distance phone calls, in airmailed birthday cards, and text messages on your first day of something new. I might not have been able to be tied down to one specific person for years, but I have picked up friends at their lowest, wiped snot from their tear-crusted faces, laughed with them on mountain-tops while feeling weightless, and left little notes for them to find on rough days. 


Romantic love isn’t always the hardest to find; it can be shoehorned into shape if you feel desperate enough, it might not fit the piece properly but people jab at it until the edges round off, and ‘it’ll do’. Romantic love is a place people seek comfort. But it is not where I seek mine. 


My comfort is found in warm gaggles of people that make me laugh until I cry and do that for me despite seeing the full truth of who I am. Acceptance can feel irreplaceable when you know distance and time have no meaning. 


I have been a committed friend to people I know I simply will never fall out of love with. There are friends that fill seats at birthday parties but then there are friends that are firmly wedged into your genetic makeup that you weave together a history and future that will never be apart. I know I say this at 26 years old, but I genuinely know there are people in my life that will belong there until I am old, grey, and can hardly even remember my own name. I don’t have to always shout it from the rooftops, sometimes I just whisper into their ear as we part ways at the tube station; this love is endless. Because love can be a quiet word.


So, yes, maybe I have not committed to a romantic love. But I have committed to more than that. I have committed to friendships that have built me into someone I am also learning to love. Love is about the quiet moments of remembering which friend hates tomatoes and saving them a portion before they get added to the salad. It is remembering to take straws to their house for pre-drinks because they still haven’t bought any. It is finding a note you passed to each other in year 9 science, and every word of affirmation still being true. Love and commitment take many forms. And the romantic one might find me one day - but until that moment I am basking in the glow of a love that will not die, a glow I have carefully cultivated over months, years and decades; a glow that will not go out. 


To my friend that are my glow. I commit to you, I always have and I always will. 

x


An angel clad in leggings and wellies

Sometimes the universe actually does have a plan. She has the solution to the problem that you can’t solve. She hands it to you when you need it the most.


A year ago I lost my Gran to cancer, my world was shattered, I moved back across the globe to my hometown for the first time in 7 years. Little did I know that 2 days prior to this, an old friend also lost her Grandma. The universe knew though.


The universe took two broken souls and made them find each other. She pushed two girls, who had once had a deep connection, lost for no reason other than time, space, and circumstance, and she pushed them back together. And in this motion, I found a way to heal.


A friend who instantly fell back into the comfort and ease that can only happen when you have already shared a bond that felt boundless. 


My heart wasn’t just on my sleeve, it was torn in pieces and scattered on the floor. But it seemed those pieces became caught in a gust of wind and tangled with the fragments my friend’s loss had left behind. Together, little by little, talk by talk, walk by walk, we picked up the pieces and slotted them back in their rightful place. I think a few got jumbled in the process, and now some of her pieces are in my heart, and mine in hers - because it’s like she gets me more than you can just by looking at someone’s heart, she feels it too. 


The universe sent me an angel. An angel clad in leggings and wellies. We trudged through mud, got sunburnt in the heat, braced the icy rain, and with each step we built back our walls. But this time she was on my side of the wall and we were building our defences, stronger together to the onslaught the world had to offer. 


Sometimes, the universe just knows. She knows exactly that you need a friend that’ll make you laugh until you pee a bit, a friend that’ll give you just the book you need for that time, a friend that’ll push you further when you feel like you’ve given up, a friend to be the cheerleader, the therapist, the agony aunt, and the motivational speaker all wrapped in one little parcel of a beaming sunshine human.


Thank you for giving my thoughts a place to rest when there was no space left in my mind for them all. Thank you for taking my hand, always metaphorically, since you don’t like to touch, and dragging me over every hill I came across. Thank you for bringing me happiness when my world was full of grey. Thank you for every single day of the last year. And for the last 14 years before that. I couldn’t have faced it without you. Thank you for being you.


The universe knows. And she knew I needed you. 


x


Small ways to feel alive in a pandemic

-Pick fresh basil and liberally add it to every pasta dish you cook. Make sure to tell anyone in the room, or yourself if alone, “I love the smell of fresh basil.”

-Watch a TikTok video of a cat in a tiny pair of star-shaped sunglasses

-Walk through the field and see a man walking 8 dogs. Smile.

-Plant tomato seeds and sweet peas. Place them on the windowsill and think of the day that you will pick the fruits of your labour.

-Buy a laundry softener that smells great. Every time you do laundry your house will fill with this smell and you’ll be thankful for your choice.

-Walk to buy apples, when it starts pouring with rain - run in it! Run with the music playing in your ears and imagine you are in a music video.

-See your dog for the first time in weeks. She will smother you in kisses and make you feel loved and missed.

-Video call a friend on the other side of the world, when the call connects he will instantly say “You look very well.”

-Dust the leaves of your houseplants. You are caring for other lives and it will give you purpose.

-Buy exactly the food you are craving, even if you get lost on the way to not your usual supermarket. 

-Sleep with your window open so you hear the birds singing when you wake up.

-Bake a cake. Decorate it with a smiley face in buttercream.

-Make to-do lists with easy-to-achieve tasks - feel accomplished as you tick them off. Make them as simple as you need; wake up - check, brush your hair - check.

-Take a break from your phone. Delete Instagram for a week or two. You’ll gain so much time you didn’t even realise you were missing.

-Find a new song you really like. Play it really loud. Sing to it really badly - but with gusto. 

-Paint a picture. Even when you get to the stage where you hate it, persist. 

-Buy a bamboo steamer. Steam anything you can get your hands on. Eat a lot of steamed dumplings.

-Watch a sad film, light candles, eat oranges in bed, and cry. Sometimes you just need to release your emotions. Feel strangely refreshed after this.

-Sit outside in your garden and eat lunch. Do it even when it’s 5 degrees. Wear a big coat and take a blanket. Vitamin D will do you good.

-Try a new recipe. Cook it, no matter how extravagant, just for yourself.

-Get to work early on a sunny but cold day. Stay in your car for 5 minutes just soaking up the heat of the sun through your windscreen.


x


An ode to touching

A supportive squeeze of your hand when your friend sees your ex enter the pub. An arm that weaves its way around your waist as you’re cooking dinner. A forehead to forehead touch the moment before you kiss for the first time. 


I miss touching. I miss reaching out. I miss holding you and saying nothing but feeling infinitely heard.


FaceTime can take you so far - you can see the smile on your Dad’s face as he unwraps the best present you’ve ever got him, you can see your sleeping dog with her tongue poking out, you can see your friends elation in the moment she tells you that she landed the new job. But you can not hug them to show them how much it means. Zoom might be the closest we can get when touching isn’t safe, but my heart is yearning for closer. 


Two meters is a great distance for standing on the train platform beside a stranger or for avoiding the slightly sweaty man as you do your Tesco shop. But two meters is not a great distance for where I want to be.


I want to be holding your hand as we dance in the living room. I want to be sat on your lap, after joining a group and finding no empty seats. I want to lay on the sofa with my head tucked in that space between your chin and your chest. 


I want to feel again.


Never again will I pass up the chance to hug each of my friends before I leave a group dinner. In fact you might have to forcible ask me to leave that group dinner because I am not sure I ever want to be separated from them again. 


I have travelled the world, and lived on opposite ends of this planet, it seems I am always too far from someone. But never before have I been too far from everyone I love. Even when this too far is just two meters at times. I just want to reach out my hand to really show you how much I love you, because honestly my words can’t do it enough.


In the future we might forget that awful time where for a year touching was not safe - a single touch could cost a life. But when I am squeezed between a few of you, as we wake up in a pile, in a bed we always manage to get too many of us in, my heart will remember that this is where I feel safest. Being in one sticky, sweet, loving, messy, moreish cuddle after a night of laughing, dancing, loving and doting. You are my people.


I can’t wait to touch you again. 


x







Is Harry Styles in a dress important?

Like every other human on the planet, I have become obsessed with Harry Styles. I know the die-hard fans will say that I am late to the party, but the Jack Will’s preppy, mop haired pop singer just didn’t do it for me back in the day. However, the gender-boundary-breaking solo singer really is. (I think my weekly Spotify plays of his latest album must pay for his groceries regularly.) It is not just his music that has converted me, for a start he seems like a genuinely lovely human - I’ve not heard a single bad word said about him from anyone that’s met him, and manners go a long way in my books - but it is his total redefining of what masculinity means that sealed the deal.


In 2018 I was writing my final Master’s project on the breakdown of gender binaries as the future for fashion. I was underwhelmed by the lack-lustre attempts of ‘gender neutral’ fashion on the high street. As if a grey t-shirt and some baggy jeans was groundbreaking. I was losing faith- we might have to endure another generation of a white shirt and black suit trousers as the pinnacle of masculine fashion. Where was Harry Styles when I needed him most?! (I don’t actually know his whereabouts during this time, my obsession wasn’t in full force yet and he wasn’t plastered on the pages of American Vogue just yet). Harry Styles didn’t invent men in dresses, this is certainly not the case. To direct the credit where it is rightly deserved, it is Harry Lambert that is the styling super-mind behind Styles (Lambert also didn’t invent men in dresses, just to clarify). While I was despairing in my university library over another failed Zara Gender Neutral campaign there was very little in the main stream fashion world to promote the ideals I was so desperately seeking. 


** A short break here to mention the master who was truly pushing boundaries for men’s fashion - Palomo Spain. Alejandro Gómez Palomo is the creator of the brand that is hailed as ‘changing the rules of mens fashion’, and on discovery of this brand I could have wept tears of joy (they may have also been tears of stress as my final shoot negatives were lost in the post, I was due to take my driving test and had lost all concept of what sleep was). Palomo rebelled against what was considered masculine and threw at it powerful feminine lines within his exquisite tailoring techniques. The year 2018 was a massive one for him, he was invited by the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode to show his latest collection, won Spanish Vogue’s Who’s on Next prize and also presented his new acclaimed collection Wunderkammer. (I passed my driving test and against what felt like the odds, gained my Masters degree with my mental health still in tact. So, hard to tell who had a bigger 2018 really.) If I ever happen to meet Alejandro I will personally thank him for saving the future of fashion and also my Masters essay.  **


Back to Styles. 


It’s November 2020 and for the first time in American Vogue’s 128 year history there is a man appearing solo on the cover. That man is Harry Styles. 


The cover and supporting story were shot by Tyler Mitchell, who in 2018 made his own Vogue history, as the first African American to shoot the magazine cover. So two trailblazing men in one shoot, and not only that, it includes a couture Gucci dress - and its not Harry’s sister that’s wearing it. It is a really special shoot, it’s a true showcase of what men’s fashion can mean and it is done with class, coolness and does not feel contrived at all. 


Backlash was inevitable, you can’t break boundaries and not ruffle a few feathers. To Candace Owens who called for the ‘return of manly men’, I ask you - do you really want to see another muscle-tee clad, baby oil dripping and pumping iron man? Also, BORE OFF. The outdated, conservative view of what constitutes ‘manly’ is just oh so dull. These gender fluid movements are bringing energy and fun back into the world of men’s fashion, and I for one think it is necessary. 


More perfectly painted nails, more ruffles, more glitter denim jumpsuits - I want it all! And considering Styles’ status as an iconic sex symbol (my straight male friends can all admit to him being easy on the eye) it seems the world wants it too. The idea that his reach is no longer just teenage girls - even my dad can name Harry Styles from a lineup, and this is a man that once exclaimed “WHO?” when talking about Adele… - shows that he has entered the mainstream in a way that will infiltrate our lives, and not for the wrong reasons. At a time when suicide rates are at an all time high in young people, and male rates continually remain high, maybe this freedom of self expression is what we should all be striving towards. The right to dress how you want to, and for this to not be judged, is important. Clothes are a cape of confidence. Who doesn’t want a little extra sparkle on their confidence costume?


So, is Harry Styles in a dress important? It is easy to dismiss this initially as frivolous, but genuinely this is shaping the future of fashion as we know it. Seeing one of the most famous young men on the planet in a dress is a reformulation for how fashion is perceived. If this shoot allows just one more person to have courage and conviction to step out of their house in an outfit that subverts gender norms, I think it is heading in the right direction. No longer should clothes be defined by gender or sexuality, and this is a pivotal point in fashion history.


In short, I think the answer is YES. Harry Styles in a dress is important; Vogue isn’t the first time he has publicly appeared in one. Not only because of his global appeal is this poignant but we are at a turning point in redefining what ‘manly is’. If manly for you is a well-tailored Saville Row suit, sure, but also if it is a pink tutu and matching manicure that’s fine too. We should not belittle choices of expression. We should all be a bit more open, a bit kinder and, maybe, a bit more Harry Styles. 


x




An ode to nights out

It’s never taken much to convince me to go on a night out, often a simple “Shall we go out tonight?” is adequate enough to do the job. Of all the things that have been stripped from us in lockdown this is one I am missing the most.


I am ready to trade it all in for that feeling when a little drink on a Friday night turns into the stumble home at 4am with a portion of chips in one arm, and your best friend on the other as you laugh about the moment that guy you once matched with on Tinder pointed at you across the bar. 


This is an obituary to the unmade friends that could have been. The just for 10 minutes in the queue for the toilets as you take the hand of a stranger and whisper to her “I am desperate, I think I’m going to run into the gents - do you want to come with me?” friends. The “We have an extra tequila shot, do you want it?” At the bar as you give a hasty “Yeah, just moved here. I’m a uni student” friends. The joyful friend for the 3 minutes 48 seconds as you scream the lyrics of Mr Brightside to each other on the dance floor. Those people that you feel so deeply connected to in the moment, you could have sworn you were soulmates; that when morning comes and the vodka has seeped away you’ll struggle to remember their name, their job or even their face, just that they smiled so wide as you apologised for knocking into them and spilling your drink on their shoe. 


I’d even take with it the moment you have to reach inside your mate’s trousers to do up her bodysuit poppers because she can’t quite manage it. I’d take the moment when the DJ drops a horrific clanger of a song that echos as the crowd audibly grown. I’d take the feeling when a 6ft 5 guy steps on your foot when you’re wearing open-toed shoes. I’d take that awkward moment when that guy you had the worst date in history with walks through the door and makes his way towards you on the dance floor.  


I’d take it all. Just for one night of dancing, laughing and singing with my friends. The nights that start with a private concert sung into hair straighteners, the running to your housemate’s room “This top, or that dress?”, the game of beer pong where you unexpectedly turn into the Michael Jordan of drinking games, the moment you all down your just-made drink because the Uber only took 2 minutes and is now waiting outside. 


What I’m saying is, nights out I miss you. I miss the “What Out out?”. I miss the hurried excuses of how much coursework you have due, even though you’re already mentally planning which to lipstick wear. I miss the “Quick, just one picture” that to the bleary eyes in the morning is a Picasso of the night before. I miss laying on your stomach to search under your bed for last weekend’s hungover-Lucozade bottle to repurpose into this weekend’s vodka lemonade vessel for the walk to the bar.


Nights out I miss you. I will always love you.


Until we meet again. And all those friends that are only seen between the hours of 11pm and 4am, and all the friends that are yet to be made - I hope you are staying safe.


x




Hello

2020 has been a chaotic year for us all. Nothing has quite gone to plan, and of the hand I’ve been dealt this year ‘start a blog’ is probably the least shocking, but that says more about my year rather than my desire to start to write. Forgive me if this is a bit all over the place, I’m learning as I go on this one; thanks for joining me.


For anyone that has spoken to me in the last, almost, 2 years they will know the fact I lived in New Zealand for 16 months is pretty much a personality trait of my mine now; I really won’t shut up about it. 

Within my first few weeks of living there I was walking home from a night of meeting new friends and listening to Dolly Alderton’s Love Stories podcast. This particular episode was with Matt Haig and he read his list of “Things that I have enjoyed since the time I wasn’t sure I would ever enjoy anything again” from his book Reasons to stay alive. It was such a moving and rousing list that it prompted me later to write my own of a similar vein.


So, here we have, my list of things that have brought me joy in New Zealand (written in July 2019):

-meeting new people that instantly feel like friends

-roadtrips with good music

-swimming in lakes

-swimming in rivers

-swimming in the sea

-learning to surf on a black sand beach

-the feeling of the sun on your face when you close your eyes

-waking up to the sound of birds

-soup when you feel ill

-seeing your friends in love

-seeing your friends get married

-dancing to a live band at a wedding

-dancing to a live band in an Irish bar

-dancing in the kitchen

-tomatoes picked straight from the garden

-lemon trees

-golden light that touches the world

-a good sunrise

-a good sunset

-warm evenings feeling invincible

-art galleries

-feeling inspired

-being believed in by people that hardly know you

-making a trick shot in a game of beer pong

-sharing a bed and talking until you fall asleep

-Duck Island ice-cream

-playing scrabble under the grapefruit tree

-a touch of home when you need it most

-reading in the park

-reading in bed on a lazy morning

-reading at the beach

-carrying on when you weren’t sure you could

-the view from the top of the Hakaramitas

-saying yes to everything

-seeing the same three cows and one horse daily

-the fluffy cat at the end of the road

-seeing new birds for the first time

-the sound of the stream when walking to the supermarket

-coming to a secluded beach on what felt like a failed run

-the sound of popcorn made on the stove

-the film Bohemian Rhapsody

-watching David Attenborough at 4am with someone you just met

-the shower after getting off the plane

-showering after being at the beach all day

-a hot shower when you are freezing cold

-being made dinner by a friend

-communal dinners

-sharing secrets with people you haven’t known long

-honest talks during Uber rides

-feeling weightless as you walk home realising you’re in love with New Zealand


Just a few of my happy memories from a country and a group of people that gave me so much.


x



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